Monday, September 22, 2014
ALIBABA & the forty facts
Alibaba and the 40 facts As Alibaba prepares its IPO, here're 40 facts about the company – from its Lion King-singing owner to where the name was dreamed up Share95 inShare.36 Email Shane Hickey theguardian.com, Thursday 18 September 2014 12.31 BST Jump to comments (44) A billboard plugging the Taobao mobile app in Beijing. Alibaba owns the popular service. Photograph: Andy Wong/AP When Alibaba makes its debut on the New York stock market on Friday, it will be the world's biggest initial public offering (IPO). Here are 40 facts you didn't know: 1. Jack Ma was an English teacher when he started the site from his one-bedroom apartment in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, in 1998. 2. In its early days, staff would pretend they were not Chinese when sending emails to American customers. 3. It dominates internet retailing in China, where it powers 80% of online commerce. 4. Alibaba is not Ma's first e-commerce venture – he founded China Yellowpages, said to be the first internet company in China. 5. He set up Alibaba with $60,000 borrowed from 18 people. 6. Ma first came across the internet in 1995 during a trip to Seattle. His first search? "Beer". 7. Alibaba's sales for 2014 are estimated at $420bn (£257bn), dwarfing Amazon and eBay which had a combined turnover of $90bn in 2013. 8. It has 300m customers - just short of the entire US population. 9. On a single promotional day in November 2013, Alibaba recorded sales of $5.6bn. 10. Ma is currently estimated to be China's third richest person, with a $10.3bn fortune. The float should catapult him into first place. 11. His shareholding in Alibaba is 8.9%. 12. Ma came up with the name Alibaba in a coffee shop in San Francisco. He pulled his waitress over to ask what she knew about Ali Baba and she replied: "Open Sesame." He says the name reflects how his business opens up opportunities for small businesses to sell their goods. Jack Ma: founder and chairman of Alibaba. Photograph: AP 13. Critics say fake goods appear rife on many Alibaba sites, although the company claims to spend millions rooting them out. 14. It is expected that at least $22bn of shares will be sold on Thursday, in what is expected to be the world's largest IPO. 15 If underwriters exercise an option to sell more shares, Alibaba's market debut will top Agricultural Bank of China Ltd's record $22.1bn listing in 2010. 16. The company will start trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday. 17. Its shares will trade under the ticker "BABA". 18. New York was chosen for Alibaba's debut after the Hong Kong stock exchange's officials rejected its request to allow a small group of company insiders to nominate the majority of the board. 19. Ma is well known for his flamboyance and has entertained staff singing The Lion King (view the video here, from 1.04). 20. When he needs inspiration, Ma returns to the flat where he started the company. 21. In a letter sent to staff the day that Alibaba filed its IPO prospectus, he said: "We will continue to adhere to the principle of 'customers first, employees second, shareholders third'." 22. The company employs more than 25,000 people. 23. The biggest shopping site under the Alibaba umbrella is Taobao, where 7m merchants sell their wares. 24. After the IPO, power at the e-commerce giant will be concentrated in the hands of a 28-person partnership. 25. The power structure has led to criticism that if an investor were unhappy about the direction of the company, they would have little ability to change it. 26. New York was chosen for the listing in part due to its more relaxed attitude to voting, which will let Ma retain his grip on the company. 27. The corporate structure will allow Ma and other senior staff to nominate more than half of the board members. 28. It is thought Alibaba will target US and European markets after it lists despite low recognition of the brand. 29 A recent US poll found that 88% of respondents had not heard of Alibaba. 30. Ma has always been confident of dominating China and fending off eBay: "eBay may be a shark in the ocean, but I am a crocodile in the Yangtze river. If we fight in the ocean, we lose – but if we fight in the river, we win." 31. Ma is said to be influenced by martial arts and kung fu movies and their principles of upholding righteousness. 32. More than 50% of parcels sent in China are Alibaba parcels. 33. Ma's talent for public-speaking and showmanship hailed from his parents, both past performers in the traditional storytelling art of ping tan. Open seasme: a still from Ali Baba Goes To Town, 1937. Jack Ma played on the asociations with the fictional character's treasure trove for his business. Photograph: 20th Century Fox/Everett/Rex 34. Much of the interest in Alibaba hails from investors eager to exploit China's booming economy. 35. A team from Alibaba visited New York, Boston, Hong Kong and Singapore to drum up investor support. 36. Alibaba's success is built on the huge number of internet users in China, estimated at 600 million. 37. A new frontier for Alibaba is financial services – with its Alipay app which can be used to make payments – from paying taxis or investing in funds. 38. Strong demand for shares raised the price range earlier this week to between $66 and $68 a share, up from the initial $60 to $66. 39. At $68 a share, Alibaba would be valued at around $162.7bn which would make it the biggest float in history. This would make it larger than Amazon, which is valued at around $150bn. 40. Despite his success, Ma once claimed that he has little knowledge about technology, limiting his computer use to surfing the web and emailing.